Time to move down south and have a look see what the needs are of those teams in the NFC South
This feels like a team that has almost got away from itself in recent years. Since their Super Bowl appearance they’ve been a mixed bag of inconsistent performances. Last year they were looking good until a mid season collapse ended their playoff hopes. The team has been getting older and now many of those are set to leave notably linebacker Thomas Davis (36), centre Ryan Kalil (34), cornerback Captain Mannerlyn (31) and free safety Mike Adams (38). Safety Eric Reid has already been re-signed so at least that’s one spot that they don’t need to concern themselves with too much.
On offensive, Cam Newton has to have better protection. There are still question marks about whether he’ll play in 2019 due to injury concerns and if he does, then the Panthers will need to invest in some offensive line pieces as a must. Wide receiver Devin Funchess also looks set to test free agency, depleting the corps of receivers that Newton has to target. DJ Moore will occupy WR1 but a possession type receiver could well be needed to play alongside last years first round pick. Lastly, Greg Olsen is still great, but he’s too often injured and not getting any younger himself. Finding a younger version of the star tight end who can eventually usurp him could be a good use of a later round draft pick.
On defence there are again, multiple holes to try and fill. They need a defensive end to replace Julius Peppers (retired) and put more pressure on the opposing quarterback than they were able to in 2018. With Thomas Davies gone, linebacker Luke Kuechly will need a running partner or even someone to step into his considerable sized shoes given his own injury history. Depth at cornerback is always a safe thing to have, but with all the holes they have now and only six picks in the draft and only $19m in cap space, it may not be available.Embed from Getty Images
The Falcons defence was hampered by a series of long term injuries last year whilst the offence was hampered by bad play calling. Both should be sorted now with the injury fog looking to clear and a new offensive coordinator in place in Atlanta.
On defence they need to make a decision about what to do with Grady Jarrett. Realistically (and per a previous article) I think they’ll place the franchise tag on him. But there’s good depth in the draft for defensive tackle and, whilst I don’t think he’ll be there, some have even marked Houston’s Ed Oliver being taken by the Falcons in mock drafts. Given all the trouble they had with injuries, finding some depth at linebacker and safety could also be advisable should the same occur in 2019.
The offence looks pretty much set with not many starters heading for the exit door. The only major one is running back Tevin Coleman. No team can really afford to pay two running backs a second contact and so he’s been allowed to let leave and I expect them to bring in a cheaper alternative from the draft where there is some depth, if not much star quality. David Montgomery out of Iowa State could be an option for them on day two of the draft. Aside from that, the Falcons need to replace their kicker after cutting veteran kicker Matt Bryant at the end of the year.Embed from Getty Images
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Well, quarterback isn’t going to be an issue (apparently) as new head coach Bruce Arians looks set to stick with Jamies Winston, at least for 2019. Backup QB is though with both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin leaving. More important for the offence will be to find a new running back. The Bucs drafted Ronald Blair in the second round last year but after a poor offseason, the rookie never really got a chance to show if he had improved. Peyton Barber took most of the carries but alas he’s heading out to free agency. As has been said a few times now, decent RBs can be found throughout the draft. If DeSean Jackson does get his desire to leave then (along with underrated Adam Humphries who’s heading to free agency) the wide receiver cupboard will need to be restocked behind Mike Evans.
On defence there’s been numerous rumours doing the rounds about the prospect of cutting or trading defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, not something I’d agree with. They’re losing defensive end Vinny Curry, Safety Chris Conte and linebackers Kevin Minter and Kwon Alexander already to free agency. Replacing some of those as well as getting some quality at cornerback should be the priority on defence for this team.
New Orleans Saints
The team that was robbed of a place in the Super Bowl, well, so they’ll have you think still. Drew Brees has another year left on his contract and he’s not getting any younger so it could be a case of ‘all in’ in 2019 for the Saints to get him, and the franchise, that second title. Someone else for the future hall of fame quarterback to throw to would be good. I think Michael Thomas is a top three wide receiver in the league but he needs help – be that through the addition of one or two new legit wide receivers or a tight end that’s under the age of 30. If Mark Ingram can’t be tied down to a new contract then a new power running back will need to be bought in to play alongside Alvin Kamara. Kamara is great, but the whole workload can’t be put on his back alone, and whilst he can run through the tackles, he’s not quite got the power that Ingram does.
On defence there’ll be hope that Marcus Davenport repays the two first round picks it took to get him, especially as Alex Okafor is out of the door. Other than that, most of the starting pieces on the defence are returning so supplementing them with some more quality will only help it get better.Embed from Getty Images